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Best Games - The Irritating Maze

The Irritating Maze is not a complex game. It is not a game that defines or extends a genre. You will not find a compelling narrative or ingenious mechanics here. The Irritating Maze is simple. But it’s the right kind of simple.
The Irritating maze is the most pure sort of game there is. A test of skill.
When you start you get to choose from a wide selection of playable characters. Either Man or Lady. It doesn’t really matter, though, because the game plays identically no matter who you choose.
After that, you guide the tip of a metal rod through an electrified maze filled with hazards. That’s it. That’s the game. Guide what amounts to a round cursor through a maze. Don’t touch the walls. Then do it again. Then again. Win.
But you probably won’t win. The Irritating Maze might be simple in concept and design, but it is ridiculously hard to play. There are only three levels, but just making it halfway through the second one is an accomplishment. Some of the hazards are truly devious. Parts of the maze move, there are rapidly moving wheels, and at one point the game traps you in a small box, and then moves the box around. Sinister. 
Released to arcades by SNK in 1997 without much fanfare and based on a mid 90s Japanese variety show segment that very few people in North America and Europe would have been familiar with, it’s no wonder that The Irritating Maze is not a very well known game. Maybe you will just have to trust me then, that this game is so perfectly executed that it’s amazing it didn’t spawn a wave of copycats and sequels.
The Irritating Maze is one of the few Neo Geo arcade games of the time to be built into a special cabinet. It used a trackball controller and sported an air cannon that would blast air in the players face when they collided with one of the walls. I suppose that incorporating a metal trackball that would actually shock the player would have been a lawyer's nightmare, so they went with the air cannon. Probably a safer choice. Still, the game starts with a warning that any person who is pregnant or has a heart condition should not play The Irritating Maze.
Maybe they should have put that on the cabinet in bright glowing letters. We would probably be playing The Irritating Maze 15 today if they had.
There is a place in this world for wild dynamic systems based games and vast arrays of player verbs, but sometimes, sometimes, you just want to move carefully through a maze.
That makes The Irritating Maze one of the Best Games.

This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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